When people think about tall trees, the image that comes to mind is often one of the giant redwoods of northern California. Probably not too many people think about tulip trees.
But, in fact, the tulip tree, liriodendron tulipifera, is the tallest, native hardwood tree in North America and grows readily in the eastern United States. (Redwoods are evergreens.) Thanks to new technology, tulip trees have been measured in recent years upwards of 190 feet, and forestry experts believe it won't be long before they find one that tops 200.
That is just one of the many lessons audience members learned at the 7th annual Forest Summit held last week at Holyoke Community College. The conference each year is jointly organized by HCC and the Eastern Native Tree Society, or ENTS, as members call themselves, a not-so thinly veiled reference to the ancient talking, walking trees in J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy.
The free, two-day conference was held Thursday, Oct. 13, and Friday, Oct. 14, in HCC's Kittredge Center with lectures about everything from forest response to climate change to lessons from old growth forests and the role of friends networks in forest preservation.
"This is an opportunity to bring together an audience that is interested in forests," said Gary Beluzo, HCC professor of environmental science, an ENT and one of the conference organizers. "We've got environmentalists, foresters, forest scientists, even philosophers. There are a lot of scientists, but a lot of other presentations as well."
One of the summit attendees was Conor Reardon, a 23-year-old South Hadley resident and 2009 HCC graduate, who earned his bachelor's degree in 2011 from the University of Massachusetts, majoring in natural resource conservation with a concentration in forestry. He now works as a fire fuels and forest technician for Northeast Forest and Fire Management, which conducts forest inventories and controlled burns and marks trees for harvest.
Reardon was carrying a book he'd just bought called Bark by naturalist Michael Wojtech, who had earlier given a presentation titled, "How to recognize trees by their bark."
"I'm pretty good at identifying trees by their leaves and buds," said Reardon, "but that gets tricky in the wintertime."
The ENTS continued their discussions about trees over the weekend with their annual "rendezvous" on Saturday, Oct. 15, along the Mohawk Trail in Charlemont, with guided nature walks into some elder groves to look at ancient trees. There was also a slideshow presentation at the Charlemont Inn by arborist Bart Bouricious, who talked about developing structures to observe forest canopies, capped by an evening of food, music, poetry and prose, all related to nature.
Photos: (Left) Gary Beluzo, HCC professor of environmental science and a conference organizer, introduces a presenter. (Left) Presenter Will Blozan talks about tulip trees.